I still remember where I was the last time Roger Federer was involved in a Wimbledon final, described as the best match ever. It was in July of 2008 and I was at work, on my morning coffee break. Rafael, then a young up-and-comer who was threatening to take Federer’s spot as top player in the world, had won the first two sets.
This was a discouraging development. Federer had beaten Nadal in the previous two Wimbledon finals, but it seemed that finally his time was up. However, thanks to a couple lengthy rain breaks, Federer found a second wind and came back to win the next two sets by tie break. I was now on my lunch break, and the lunch room was packed with 40 people anxious to see if Federer could pull off the biggest comeback of all time, or if Nadal would break through.
It took extra games, but Nadal won the fifth set, 9-7. It was the longest Grand Slam final at more than four hours, and it seemed to signify the back-half of Federer’s career at age 26. It was amazing to watch.
Except that’s not what happened. On July 14, 2019, Federer was back in the Wimbledon final for the new “best match ever”, a gruelling fifth-set loss to Novak Djokovic. The match took four hours and 57 minutes and broke the 2008 record for longest finals match.
It’s hard to fathom how Federer was involved in both of these monumental matches 11 years apart, but he’s not the only one. After all, he had to beat Nadal in the semifinal just to get to Djokovic.
Djokovic won his first Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open, and now has 16 major titles overall, two back of Nadal and four back of Federer.
Simply put, the fact that the three winningest and best tennis players ever have existed in the same era is incredible, and that said era has lasted more than 11 years is insane.
Still not impressed? Pete Sampras, the previous holder of the record for most major titles won (14) won his last one at age 30. Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic are all age 32 or older, and have each won at least one Grand Slam title since 2018.
I’ll never be able to wrap my head around how this happened. No sport has ever had its three greatest players of all time play at the same time. The NFL had Tom Brady and Payton Manning at the same time, and the NHL Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, but three players is a whole other level. These three oldies repeatedly dismiss any and all young threats. If you don’t like these guys, than it can be hard to be a fan of men’s tennis. But its undeniably amazing, and whenever this era finally ends, we’ll never see anything like it again.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.